“Live” Blog of Yucatan/Cuba Trip, Day 7: We live here now

November 12, 2013
Today was my birthday, but it wasn’t my all-time favorite. Husband was sick (with what we are calling Fidel’s Revenge) and didn’t go on the day’s adventure. I admit I was pretty worried about him, especially since if he got worse and had to go see someone we would have no way of communicating. Even if we hadn’t minded the probably astronomical cost, US phones simply do not work in Cuba. And I didn’t really trust the hotel staff, because someone had already taken one of Husband’s inhalers and pretended they didn’t have it, when they did. Husband had to sneak behind the reception desk and steal back his own medically necessary property.

Me sad because Husband’s not with me.

So anyway my day was already not awesome from the time I got onto the bus alone, feeling pretty guilty about going without him. And then we learned that our flight time from Cuba had been changed by several hours–enough that we would miss our flight home. This meant that we now had to figure out a way to change our (non-refundable) flight while in a country where we were totally disconnected–no phones, no internet. Tour guide Michael said that his office could handle the changes (which turned out to be completely untrue), but even so I was worried about the cost. It looked like my birthday present was going to be losing about $1000 just to get home. Whee.
If it weren’t for those issues, though, it would have been a nice day. We visited a tobacco plantation and some cuevas (grutas), and now I have an entirely unnecessary two words for “cave” in my Spanish vocabulary. Also caverna if it’s really a big cave.
In a cave. On a boat.
At lunch, humiliation as I was pulled into the Afro-Cuban band that was playing me a happy birthday song. I’d already been visibly worried enough that well-meaining people kept asking me what was wrong and telling me it would be okay. I had just said that all I wanted for the rest of the day was for no one to look at me, and then I was the center of attention, trying not to murder everyone with my eyeballs. All I wanted to do was eat the delicioso rice that we’d been served. Our table–the cool kids–ate all of the rice from all of the tables. Todo el arroz! Amy and Darin bought me the local drink, orange juice and honey and rum, which was okay. Husband would have liked it, was all I could think.
The last of the rice disappears into Crow.
We also visited a tobacco plantation and drank rum and coffee with the “Marlboro Man,” who is pretty awesome. The cave were cave-y, and the scenery gorgeous, but overall we spent a lot of time on the bus for not terribly much. This was also the day we realized that things that had been listed on our schedule were being quietly skipped, so we did not see the painted cliffs.
The Marlboro Man rolls a cigar.
Tobacco leaves dry behind him.
Back in Havana, the night’s activity was a cabaret show. Husband felt well enough to come along, which helped my mood. We were right next to the stage, and practically kicked by the dancers, who were pretty good. The costumes were colorful and threadbare, the makeup glittery, the dances . . . odd. The first number was a rape dance that made me truly uncomfortable. However, it was also my favorite number as a work of art. The dinner that was served before the show was truly horrible, by far the worst food we ate on our entire trip (yes, worse than lunch at the Houston airport Panda Express). We joked that it was a good thing we couldn’t really see the food in the low light, but when the stage lights came on and my mostly-uneaten plate became visible, there was the biggest wad of what looked like pubic hair on it.
Halfway through the show tour guide Michael told us that the bus was leaving, so we awkwardly left right in the middle of the performance. He gave me a bottle of rum for my birthday, and the hotel gave me a bottle of Chinese sparkling cider and a fan, which was very sweet. Also, to my pleasant surprise, they took care of Husband while he stayed behind ill, checking on him every couple of hours. It turns out the chambermaid is also a registered nurse and she examined him and gave him advice while mopping the floor. Another odd reminder of the problematic two currency system that has turned nurses into maids. But again, this reminds me of my own life, and those of all my highly educated underemployed friends. Le sigh.